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S'pore man's triple HIV blow

First, his Vietnamese wife falls ill to HIV and dies. Now jobless, he finds out he and toddler son are also HIV positive.- The New Paper

Tue, Apr 05, 2011
The New Paper

TWO years ago, Johnny (not his real name) felt like the happiest man on earth when he married the woman he loved - a Vietnamese girl he had met while she was working at a restaurant here.

But Johnny's happiness was short-lived.

A year after their wedding, his wife was diagnosed with HIV.

She died two months ago.

While trying to come to terms with her death, Johnny found out that he, too, had been infected with the fatal disease.

Then came another devastating blow: He found out that their one-year-old son is also HIV-positive.

"My life is in a total mess now. I have never felt so helpless before," said Johnny.

"I am so sad to have lost my wife. When I knew that she was HIV-positive, I told myself that we're already married. I will take care of her no matter what happened.

"But she is gone now and my son and I have also contracted the disease. I don't know where to find the strength to carry on. I don't know how to take care of my son."

It is not clear who passed the virus on to whom.

Johnny said: "It is no longer important who passed the disease to the other. My wife is already gone. What is important to me now, is how I can carry on my life with my son. I really don't know."

Johnny, 35, used to work as a marketing executive.

But he lost his job last August as he had taken too much time off work to attend to his personal matters.

Since then, he has only done odd jobs and has not held a regular job.

We are not identifying Johnny as his family is still in the dark about his predicament.

He declined to talk about them, but said that he lives with his parents and siblings and he does not think they would be able to accept his and his son's illnesses.

He added that he now takes extra precautions to avoid cutting himself. HIV is usually transmitted through body fluids like blood.

Said Johnny: "If I tell my family about my condition, they would not be able to accept it and I may have to move out of the family flat. "

"I have already lost my job, I can't afford to lose the roof over my head. I still have a son to care for."

In 2007, Johnny met his wife who was then working in a Vietnamese restaurant here. They fell in love and registered their marriage here in 2009.

His wife stopped working and had to return to Vietnam. When she returned to Singapore, she had to keep applying to extend her social visit pass.

Last year, Johnny tried to apply for a long-term immigration pass for her.

"I had been married for two years, but my wife and I had very little time together after our marriage. She had to live in Vietnam and me, in Singapore," he said.

She underwent a medical examination, which included a general physical examination, a chest x-ray and an HIV test.

That was when it was found that she was HIV positive.

Said Johnny: "We were shocked to get the medical test result. But we thought that since we have already registered our marriage, and were recognised as husband and wife by the law, she would be allowed to stay here with me. Moreover, she was already pregnant with our first child.

"I did not know that those who are HIV-positive would not be granted a long-term immigration pass.

"We went to see an ICA officer and submitted my wife's application together with her medical examination results."

But the application was rejected.

"The officer told us that he could not extend her stay here and she had to leave Singapore. We were disappointed," he said.

Johnny then arranged for his wife to return to Vietnam.

A month later, he flew to Vietnam to try to bring her back to Singapore. But his wife was stopped and denied entry at the immigration checkpoint at Changi Airport because of her illness, Johnny said.

"She was sent back to Vietnam the following day," he added.

She returned to live with her parents in Vietnam and gave birth to their son there.

For the past nine months, Johnny said he has had to shuttle between Singapore and Vietnam to spend time with his family.

He said that he was busy with work and travelling between the two countries, and did not think of going for an HIV test himself.

"At that time, I thought that since we're already married, it didn't really matter if I have the disease. I was more concerned for her," Johnny said.

"I wanted to earn more money to provide a good life for my family in Vietnam. I never thought she would die suddenly."

Two months ago, Johnny's wife came down with a fever and had to be hospitalised.

She called Johnny from the hospital and reassured him that she would be fine.

But Johnny was worried and booked the next available flight to Vietnam. He got there the next day, but his wife had died by the time he rushed to the hospital. He said the cause of his wife's death was listed as tuberculosis.

"My wife is gone now, I have to bring up my son on my own. And I wanted to bring him back to Singapore and raise him here," Johnny said.

"But because we didn't register our marriage in Vietnam, I had to prove to the authorities there that I am the father of my son."

Last month, Johnny and his son under went a DNA test to prove their kinship.

The result confirmed that Johnny is the father.

But the results also showed that both father and son are HIV positive.

"I was shocked. My whole world came crumbling down. I really don't know what to do now," said Johnny, fighting back his tears.

For now, he hopes to apply for a passport for his son andbring him back to Singapore.

This article was first published in The New Paper.


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